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Understanding Narcissistic Rage

Updated on February 4, 2018
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The Little Shaman is a spiritual counselor, hypnotherapist, and a specialist in Cluster B personality disorders.

Narcissistic rage. You're probably familiar with it. Everything is going fine and then suddenly, the narcissist in your life is raging - and there's really no other word for it. It may look like hysteria, or ice cold silence. Often it involves the most despicable things being said to you, for no reason you can even figure out. Something that would be a regular disagreement with most people becomes world war 3 with a narcissist. They go from 0-60 almost instantaneously, and they will keep attacking until they've won and beat their opponent into a retreat. But why?

This need to punish and hurt others when they are hurt is an example of something called narcissistic rage. Narcissistic rage is the result of narcissistic injury. Narcissistic injury is what it's called when something happens that threatens to disrupt a pathological narcissist's attempts to believe in their false self-image. This causes the narcissist extreme discomfort. They fear being exposed more than anything, and they will do anything to prevent that from happening. They rage in a desperate attempt to get the threat to stop. If it persists, they will be forced to confront who they really are, and in their opinion that is the most disgusting, horrible thing imaginable. Their whole life is an exercise in pretending that is not who they are. They will do almost anything to keep that fiction intact.

People often believe this fiction is for them, that the narcissist is comfortable being an awful person and simply creates this fiction to fool others. That's not usually the case. The fiction is not for other people. Nothing narcissists do is for other people. The fiction is for them. The only way they can make it through their lives without decompensating and becoming suicidal is by pretending they are somebody else. The problem is that they know it's fiction, which is why they need other people to buy into it. You can't live a lie if you're the only one who believes it. Others have to buy into it, too, or it fails. When people see through it, there is often rage from the narcissist. Anything that disrupts their ability to control reality is attacked with rage and desperation. The narcissist's entire existence is predicated on their ability to do this and anything or anyone who threatens it is going to be punished.

People often believe that the false self is constructed as a way to get narcissistic supply. That's true, but what's more important is the reason they need narcissistic supply in the first place. It's to keep up that fiction. Everything they do revolves around that, whether it's to protect it or enhance it or whatever. Their good guy act, their bad guy act, their victim act... all their behavior is centered around this one thing. Pathologically narcissistic generally people feel deep shame about who and what they are. It's usually a holdover from an abusive childhood. What they believe themselves to be is really no more realistic than what they claim themselves to be. Both ideas are wrong. The problem is that they only believe one of these is false.

Anytime they are forced to confront something they've done wrong, anytime they feel slighted, disrespected, left out, rejected or abandoned, that false positive image is threatened and the negative one gets validated. They become engulfed with shame. This throws them into a rage and a panic. Then the projection starts and soon you have a full-blown narcissistic rage tantrum. It's ugly and it's scary. And because of this, if someone does not leave the situation, this behavior usually works in the narcissist's favor because they are given what they want in order to stop them from raging. It's no different from giving into a child's tantrum to make them stop crying. The child does not learn to soothe themselves or to accept a loss and neither does the narcissist. What they do learn is that the way they are behaving is acceptable and most of all, effective. They learn that other people are the key to feeling better, instead of learning to take care of this on their own.

It is, as many things are that have to do with narcissism, a very childish and primitive response to a very childish and primitive defense mechanism. Pathologically narcissistic people are unable to confront or deal directly with their feelings. They've never learned to trust or control them, so consequently their feelings overwhelm and frighten them. Anything that deals with a narcissist's emotions is going to be a dangerous, precarious situation and unfortunately, because feelings are the lens through with they view the world, everything deals with their emotions.

They best way to deal with narcissistic rage is, of course, not to. No contact with narcissists will always be best. If this is not possible, master the art of not reacting. There are several videos on this channel that can teach you the basics. If the narcissist becomes violent or hysterical when you don't react - and they could; they need you to react so that they can take their rage out on you instead of on themselves and if you don't play along, then they can't do that - then you need to call the police or leave the situation. But don't participate in this vicious cycle another second. Yes, they may become angry if you don't react. But they're going to become angry anyway. Putting up with abuse to try to avoid abuse makes no sense at all. What is this actually accomplishing?

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